I think just about everyone has, at some point, done the values activity. The general idea is that you write down your top N values on sheets of paper and continuously narrow them down until you are left with only M values remaining. I first did this when I was in High School at a Key Leader event and since then have done it quite a few times. I am going to talk about some of the ways it has been done and comment on what worked and what did not.
The first way I did it, at the Key Leader event, worked fairly well. There was a paper at the front of the room with the values on them and you were asked to walk up and put your values in the ring. We started with the outer rings and moved towards the center after each round of giving up values. After it was over the facilitator pointed out how willing we were to give up our values at first and how much harder it became. She also pointed out that we still were willing to give them up despite her never using language that said it was mandatory. Everything was done well, but nothing was done spectacularly.
The most recent time I did this activity was at a student-let event for Circle K. This honestly was the worst time I have ever seen this done. We wrote each value on a sheet of paper (lead up was similar to “write your values on these ten slips of paper”) and were then told to keep choosing a smaller number of values. At the end, we were simply asked to hand our remaining value to someone walking around the room collecting them. This activity did not create though, it did not encourage us to reflect on what it was we valued, it simply got a sample of what it was that many people in our club valued and allowed for a word cloud to be shown at the end. This is an activity that is capable of having a lot of impact upon people and I really did not like seeing us go through it so hastily.
The best time I have ever seen the activity done was at Circle K Leadership Academy. We started with the normal writing of the values, but there was an added emphasis of how we selected each value. After we had the values written, we moved into discarding them, into a large bin. We wandered around the room, dropping our values into the bin as we did so. While we were doing this, the facilitator read off some of the values stating, for example, “Someone chose to give up honesty”, really giving us a chance to think about what we personally treasure. As he read off values I still had, it gave me pause knowing that there were people for whom these were not important. At the end, we had a chance to think about what we had done. Everything at that event worked perfectly and it is the example of how the activity should be run.
This is an outstanding activity that can get a lot of thought out of people. If you are leading it, please make sure that you give it the attention it deserves and put a lot of effort into how it can impact people.